So Patriotic! Memorial Day and 4th of July info

Monterey's Fourth Of July Parade Canceled: "Budget problems in Monterey may have forced the cancellation of the annual Fourth of July parade, but that's not stopping some from fighting to bring the big celebration back." - From KSBW.com

My plans for the Fourth of July include camping in Big Sur with Jan Hagel and his friends. However, if you are going to be in the Monterey area and you were looking forward to the annual Fourth of July parade downtown, I'm about to crush your hopes and dreams big time.

A rep from the Monterey Recreation and Community Department (I'm picturing Amy Poehler in my head - are you?) said that the city's 20% budget reduction in anything recreation is really limiting what her department can schedule. Sadly, they have cancelled this year's parade. No one wanted the cancelation, but by scrapping it they were able to save a few year-round community programs.

Dry your tears, readers! The Fourth of July lawn party is still happening! With a price tag of $60,000, city leaders decided it was best to host the day-long lawn party vs. the 1-hour parade (which would have also cost about $60K).

Bring your lawn chairs, family, and friends to Colton Hall between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on July 4th to celebrate! If you are still in the parade mood, pop over to Seaside for their Parade of Champions.

In other patriotic news, I'll be driving down to San Luis Obispo for Memorial Day weekend. I cannot wait to go to Firestone's and get fro yo from Bali's or Yogurt Creations (can't decide which to support! help me pick?), spend some time with lovely AOIIs, enjoy the weather, hit up The Shack on Sunday with Jan Hagel and friends....

All this after Nicole's HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION!! Can you believe it?? Waterproof mascara is a must because I'm just so proud of her I know that I'll be balling as she gets her diploma. Not only does she have amazing grades, she has such a strong head on her shoulders, is very mature, is a beautiful dancer, is caring and loving and kind, and she puts up with me!

What are your weekend plans?

Mi Tierra, Seaside

After I bought my 3rd and 4th scoops of ice cream from Baskin Robbins during their 31 cent cone promotion, I giddily ran back to my car. Perhaps it was the sugar coursing through my veins or maybe it was just because of my fondness for legitimate mercados - regardless, I decided to pop across the street and check out Mi Tierra Taqueria (also a Mercado y Carniceria) (1000 Broadway Ave, Seaside).

I really liked the inside of this place. Compared to Mi Pueblo in Mountain View, they have a much wider selection of pre-made salsas and ceviche stuff:

- Seasoned Pork Ears $4.40/lb.
- Seasoned Pork Feet $2.69/lb.
- Cactus Salad $3.49/lb.
- Ceviche de Camaron $5.99/lb.
- Salsa de Guacamole $4.99/lb.
- Salsa Mexicana $2.99/lb.
- and... Salsa Verde, Roja, Molcajete (<- anyone know what that is?)

They also have a more extensive butcher bar. I'm guessing that's where the carniceria part comes in...

Beef tendons, beef tongue, marinated pork, pork marinated steak (how does that differ from the one before??), marinated chicken, marinated flap meat, pozole mix (??), patas de puerco (??), pork leg, higado de res (??), beef intestine, cornish, marinated chicken leg, etc!

Enough talk about random animal parts! There was a taqueria in the back of the store, I didn't check out the prices, but I'm sure they were reasonable...

I ventured over to the fruit area and that's where I stayed and ate my ice cream - that's correct, I was not eating my ice cream and staring at the beef tongue display. Instead my mind was whirling around the Iron Cupcake: Earth challenge. I wanted to use Haitian flavors such as mangos and plantains, but I was unsure which to pick and how much I should grab. I used my iPhone a bit and decided to purchase a couple of plantains, a papaya, and a few mangos. (Or is it mangoes?) I also bought a coconut creme that I'd like to integrate into a coconut recipe some day, some chocolate wedges for Mexican hot chocolate (used some in the billiard ball cupcakes I made for my dad), and sugar cane (<- impulse buy! NO IDEA what I'm going to do with it). It was a fun place to shop, cheap, I'll definitely go back to find secret/mystery ingredients!


Tacos and Rainbows

I had a great post in draft form and then my Internet cut out… pooey! Plan B: use the iPhone to create a blog post so I don't fail my personal challenge of one blog post/day.

Today I woke up as UNusual as possible, after snagging a full 8 hours of sleep! That's practically unheard of in LO-land. I went to work and watched as the skies turned from sunny and clear to slate gray and overcast. After work I went with Dave, Victor, Tyler, and Max to El Torito's Taco Tuesday. We haven't been in a while and it was nice to get out there... We grabbed a table right against the window with a prime bay view. The water below us was crashing in a miniature pool, creating the most beautiful green sea foam -> sea foam green! A rainbow popped up a couple of minutes before we left...


31 Cent Scoop Night Recap

It probably seems like ages ago when Baskin Robbins had the MOSTunFREAkinBELIEVEABLE deal ever... And yes, I do still daydream about that glorious day... but it is never too late to look at pictures and celebrate the short, but sweet, life of the 31 cent cone.

I had no idea what to order! They gave everyone the option of buying three $0.31 cones. So technically you could snag a triple scoop beauty for under a buck! I bought two scoops (to start). Tyler, Max, Maren, and I ate our yummy cones at a nearby comic book store. So precious, right?

I hopped in my car and began driving home... I called Kerry on the way and asked her if it would be completely barbaric of me to stop at the Seaside Baskin Robbins location to get more ice cream. There were two flavors I still wanted - coffee and chocolate/peanut butter. At first Kerry was on the no-don't train (which was why I called her, so she could talk some sense into me), but I eventually said "screw it," and convinced her that it would be okay because the scoops are just so small!

I'm glad I stopped! At this location the Seaside Fire Department was behind the counter serving the scoops! They parked their big red fire truck outside of the store and a few non-scooping firemen were there supporting the cause. I snapped the picture (below) of a retired fireman whose son (left) was serving me my ice cream. All the profits went to the National Fallen Firefighters Association.

On the organization's website it reads: "The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and Baskin-Robbins would like to thank everyone who participated in the Annual 31 Cent Scoop Night held on April 28, 2010 to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and local fire service organizations nationwide... This year's event was a tremendous success; Millions of ice cream scoops were served in support of our firefighting heroes across the U.S. ... We would like to thank all of the fire service organizations that came out to support the event. Almost 700 partnerships were created between local Baskin-Robbins shops and fire service organizations." 

So GLAD I could help! Anytime, really.

Side note: 4 scoops of ice cream!!!!! WAHOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Spiciest Thing I've Ever Made

Personal challenge: At least one blog post every night this week (minus Friday). I know I've been a little distracted lately with Boo Radley's Cupcakes, and I apologize for that. I'm going to try my best to sift through all of the pictures I made sure to take for 32 Above and get them up on here. I REALLY want to share with you guys what I've been up to so I hope you enjoy reading :)

On the right is a photo I took four nights before my most recent Vegas trip. I had some almost rotten collard greens that I really needed to use. They were smelly. And drippy - dripping slimy vegetable ooze. But I used them anyways. I mixed in some chipotle adobe sauce. Thing was, I used them straight from the can aka all of the seeds were mixed in.

I can handle HOT. ...Like, really extremely HOT.

I could NOT handle this though. My nose was dripping it's own ooze at an uncanny rate. My tongue sweat was sweating. Visualize it. I mixed in a little bit of finely chopped carrots with cilantro and lime sauce (previous leftovers) to quell the heat. That didn't help! What else is a girl to do? How about turn it into the craziest salsa-spread known to man?

I pureed the leftovers and grabbed a pudding cup from the fridge to tame my taste buds. Pudding solves a lot of the world's problems. I brought the carrot-collard-green-chipotle-adobe salsa-spread to Taco Tuesday the following night and Tyler and Max dipped their chips in it. Who knows if it is/was safe, but I ended up using the remaining stuff on everything from lean pockets to veggie medley's to raisin bran -er- nevermind...


If you've had a bad day...


Run down the coastal trail, snatch up free clam chowder on Fisherman's Wharf, chat with a far away friend on the walk back...

... be ambushed by a clan of Marines

Location:Monterey, CA


Iron Cupcake: Earth - Hearts for Haiti Challenge

This post is a doozy but please read all of it!

Here's a summary: On May 6th I participated in my work's Spring Craft Fair and sold cupcakes as part of a fundraiser for Haiti relief. The challenge was to either integrate Haitian flavors or the official cupcake design into the cakes - I did both. The cake was caramelized plantain, the filling was mango curd, and the frosting was papaya buttercream (recipes at bottom). I did a spin off of the official design (compare, below). The bakesale was a HUUUGE success and I had lots of people donate money to the cause even if they weren't in a cupcake mood. In addition to a personal donation, I donated half of the cupcake money to the American Red Cross and the other half to Yele Haiti. Please, if you are reading this, vote for my Hearts for Haiti cupcake to win the challenge that Iron Cupcake: Earth is hosting! (I'll link to it soon!)

BACKGROUND: About two months ago I came across a cupcake website called Iron Cupcake Milwaukee (IC:M) via one of Cupcakes Take The Cake's blog posts. After instantly adding the IC:M url to my Google Reader, I started skimming through posts figuring out what this whole "Iron Cupcake" thing was about. Legend has it that Sandy Ploy, blogger of No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner, and her pal Jeff Reinke held a bake-off in April 2008 centered around Wasabi ...in cupcakes.

Story time: This past winter I went with four friends to a sushi/sake bomb place in Palo Alto, CA and a friend dared me to eat the blob of wasabi for $20. Does this guy realize who he is dealing with? I gobbled up that goober so fast, ripped the twenty bucks out of his hands, and cackled into the wind. Wasabi's got nothin' on me.

Back to cupcakes... Since April of '08, dozens of Iron Cupcake challenges have occurred in the Milwaukee area. That's great and all, but what about us lonely non-Milwaukee, still-love-challenges kinda folk? Well Sandy figured that out too: Iron Cupcake Earth (IC:E). It is described as: "The ultimate in world-wide bake offs. Once a month, a challenge flavor or ingredient is announced. Bloggers develop their own recipe, photograph them as they are being created and post their findings on their own personal blogs... The entire blogosphere is then asked to vote for the cupcake which best represents the challenge ingredient."

For this month's challenge, a Hearts for Haiti cupcake fundraiser, I join over 500 bakers from 23 different countries! The thing is - it is actually a THREE MONTH challenge! IC:E partnered up with the ballerzzz of the cupcake decorating world - Karen Tack and Alan Richardson of the famous Hello, Cupcake! I joined IC:E by sending my name, city, state, country, and blog address through email to the folks running it all. Super! I'm now a part of this challenge! The thing is, when can I hold a cupcake fundraiser with my 9 to 5 job? Days later, my work sends out an email inviting people to sell items at the annual Craft Fair! Perfect!! To make it even better, the Craft Fair is scheduled to be two weeks before the deadline of entry submittals!

As part of the Hearts for Haiti challenge, I had to go to Hello, Cupcake!'s website and download the cupcake decorating instructions. Each challenger was given the option to integrate Haitian flavors and/or the Hearts for Haiti cupcake design into the cupcakes. I did quite a bit of research on Haitian crops and their best exports. My final cupcake: carmelized plantains cake, mango curd filling, with a papaya buttercream frosting. That's Haiti in a nutshell cupcakeshell. I tried to generate a lot of buzz before the craft fair, letting people know that I was doing a fundraiser to raise money for two Haiti relief organizations: The American Red Cross and Yele Haiti.

After the event I added some photos from the event to IC:E's flickr pool. When you go check them out, take a look at all of the other amazing cupcake challenge photos. I could stare at cupcake photos all day long... does that mean I have a problem? Eek! I also donated my earnings - half to the American Red Cross and half to Yele Haiti. Both organizations are fantastic. If you get the chance please visit their websites and, if you can, give a donation.

Iron Cupcake: Earth offers great prizes to the winner of the challenge. The prize providers and sponsors include Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson, Bella Cupcake Coture (GORGEOUS chic cupcake liners!!), Cupcake Stackers by Gourmac, The Cake Mix Doctor Returns! by Anne Byrne, Beautiful Baking Liners by Vestli House (love their baking cups - also go check out the website just to look at the amazingly decorated cupcakes IN the amazingly decorated baking cups), and Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Bakery & Cupcakery Supply (so many products, love the multi-color foil liners).

Part I - Carmelized Plantain Cake:

For the caramelized mashed plantains:
2 T butter, melted
3 T brown sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
3 reallllyyyy ripe plantains (brown/black peels), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

For the batter:
1 3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 C butter, softened
3/4 C plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 C buttermilk
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 cups caramelized mashed plantains

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Take your sliced plantains and put them in a baking dish (I used a loaf pan). Mix the melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon together and pour the mixture over the sliced plantains. Make sure each plantain is thoroughly coated in the sugary syrup. Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and then go to town mashing the plantains. Approximate yield: 2 cups (you'll use all in the recipe).

Lower the oven heat to 350 degrees. Sift the following dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In your stand mixer's bowl, mix the softened butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides of bowl if necessary. Mix the "wet" ingredients into the batter: buttermilk, vanilla extract, and mashed caramelized plantains. Once the batter is smooth, carefully/slowly add the dry ingredients. (Scrape the bowl if you need to - which you will!)

As always, spoon the cupcake batter into a cupcake tin with liners. Fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake between 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely before doing anything fancy with them.

Part II - Mango Curd:

1 normal/hefty mango. Needs to be 1. ripe, 2. peeled, 3. pitted, 4. chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 C sugar
Juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon and 1 freshly squeezed clementine
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (I was bored so I cut mine into these teensy-tiny cubes!)

After you've peeled, pitted, and chopped your mango, drop it into the food processor with the sugar. Puree the two, scrape down the sides of the food processer bowl, and squeeze the lemon/clementine juice in after pureeing for a few seconds. Add the egg yolks - puree for 15 seconds-ish. Strain the contents of the food processor bowl through a sieve (I used my sifter!) into a large metal bowl. If you need to (I did), press the mango goo through the sieve holes with the back of your rubber spatula. Throw out whatever remains in the sieve. Take the metal bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure that the bottom of the metal bowl isn't touching any water. Take a wire whisk and whisk the puree until it gets really thick and a candy thermometer reaches 170°F. This took me about 12 minutes. Your mixture should be curd like! When the proper temperature is reached, take the bowl off of the simmering water pot and whisk in the butter chunks piece by piece. Put the curd into a tupperware container (covered) and then refrigerate it for at least four hours. I refrigerated over night (best choice - just to be safe). In total, it should make just about two cups.

Part III - Papaya Buttercream:

1 normal/hefty papaya. Needs to be 1. ripe, 2. cut in half, 3. seeds removed, 4. chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 C water
1/4 C sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/3 C papaya syrup mixture
1/4 C milk
1 lb. confectioner's sugar

After you've chopped open your ripe papaya and scooped out the seeds, put the chunks into your food processer. Process it until it is liquid-y. Spoon the papaya into a saucepan and add the water and sugar. Stir the mixture constantly until it starts to bowl. Set the papaya syrup mixture aside and let it cool. Beat the butter until it is pale and fluffy. Add the papaya syrup mixture, milk, and salt to the butter bowl. Beat everything until it is well combined. Add the confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time, scrape down the sides of bowl when necessary, and mix on medium-high speed after each addition. This makes more than enough frosting, but I didn't feel like halving the recipe. The papaya naturally sweetens it up.... it's yummy!


Bike to Breakfast

This morning I set out to bike to breakfast. This week is Bike Week in Monterey County. All week long TAMC hosts various events for bikers that encourage alternate modes of transportation, namely bicycling.

On my search to find the Marina breakfast location, I ran into a few road blocks. I wish that whoever I in charge of the roads around here would make the whole 8th Street through 1st Avenue more accessible!

I climbed a few fences and carries my bike through this dirt street just to get to the food spot... I'm glad I did! They were offering banana bread, bagels, organic strawberries, salame, string cheese, coffee, and OJ. REI sponsored the table and was handing out free water bottles, hydration tablet thingys, and coupons!

I fueled up, grabbed some freebies, and biked back into Seaside. Great way to start my morning!


Thai Bistro II

As mentioned on an earlier post, I am making it a point to try out as many of Monterey County Weekly's 'Best Of' list. The Thursday before I left for Vegas, Kyle came down to Monterey for the night. We decided to try out the 'Best Thai Restaurant' winner, Thai Bistro (159 Central Ave, Pacific Grove).

We arrived around 8:30 pm to a crowded Thai Bistro. There were still a few tables open, so wait time was pretty non-existant. TB occupies an old house, painted white and blue, inside and out. There is a large outdoor patio that would be wonderful for a sunny day. (Does Monterey even have those??)

We ordered the pumpkin curry, of course, and a garlic chili chicken entree.


(Compared to my pumpkin curry love!)

If you are a curry person, consider it a gift from the food gods when pumpkin curry makes it on your Thai menu. It's always worth looking at the restaurant's specials because it isn't typically a standard menu item.

PS: for the Bay Area folks, try out Sa-By Thai Cuisine in downtown San Jose. Located at 346 E. Williams Street, this hidden gem offers pumpkin curry and it is deliciousssslysalivainducing!

I loved Thai Bistro. I'm a sucky judge though because I - JUST - LOVE - THAI. Best part of the night was When we left and I saw a sign for their happy hour special. For the entire month of April, Monday through Thursday,  from 4:00 - 6:30pm, their entire menu is (was) 50% off! Press save on that nugget of information!!

I can see why MCW awarded Thai Bistro with this title, but it won't sop me from trying some other Thai spots in the area!


Okay bloggers, a TON of stuff has happened in life recently. I've been extremely busy travelling around - San Diego, Vegas, rafting in Sacramento area, blah blah blah. Add to that a full time job, stuff to do in Monterey, bike riding, running (sorry but it's true!), I have had so little time to update my blog.

Please just sit tight. I'm watching 90210 right now, sipping on a delicious smoothie I made (with slightly expired orange juice eek!) Side note: a commercial for Vampire Diaries is on right now and I realized I'm kind of sad that I stopped watching it!

One other really big thing that's taking up my time is my new adventure: BOO RADLEY'S CUPCAKES!! Before I get into the details I'd like you to check out the following "cartoon" (if you click on it, it'll get bigger):

Anyways, I'm off to foraging through the hundreds of pictures of things that I WANT TO BLOG about! Hopefully I can get a few more posts up tonight!